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StarBulletin.com

High-tech training benefits isle Guard


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POSTED: Tuesday, October 21, 2008

FORT HOOD, Texas » When the Hawaii Army National Guard begins its second combat tour in Iraq and Kuwait later this year, it will have the benefit of wartime experience and several months of high-tech training.

               

     

 

 

About the unit

        Hawaii Army National Guard's 29th Brigade Combat Team was established in January 1959. The unit is commanded by Col. Bruce Oliveira.

       

       

Activated

        » 1968: For Vietnam War. 29 killed
» 2004: For Iraq War. 18 killed
» 2008: For Kuwait for nine months

       

Assigned units and locations in Kuwait:

       

       

Camp Virginia

        » 29th Brigade Special Troops Battalion
» 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry
» 29th Brigade Support Battalion

       

Camp Arifjan

        » Headquarters, 29th Brigade Combat Team
» Headquarters, 45th Fires Brigade (Oklahoma National Guard)
» 1st Squadron, 299th Cavalry Regiment

       

Kuwait Naval Base

        » 1st Battalion, 487th Field Artillery

       

Source: 29th Brigade Combat Team       

       

Brig. Gen. Joseph Chaves, who took the 29th Brigade Combat Team to Iraq in 2004, told the Star-Bulletin that technology will give Hawaii's 1,700 citizen soldiers an advantage.

"Training is a lot more sophisticated," said Chaves, who was promoted to commander of the Hawaii Army National Guard after the brigade returned home in April 2006. "The training is much more realistic."

Simulation training at Fort Hood and Schofield Barracks ranges from marksmanship to learning how to drive in convoys, reacting to roadblocks and spotting roadside bombs.

In simulators at Fort Hood, soldiers can climb into four virtual Humvees and drive any route in Iraq or Kuwait. Trainers can plant roadblocks or launch insurgent attacks on the convoy, and their occupants have to react.

That training will benefit brigade members who will escort military and civilian convoys from Kuwait into Iraq as far north as Mosul, said Brig. Gen. Gary Hara, assistant adjutant general.

Two units of the 29th Brigade - the Army Reserve's 100th Battalion and the 1st Squadron, 299th Cavalry - have been assigned convoy duties. The 100th Battalion will work out of Camp Virginia, while the 299th Cavalry will guard military convoys leaving Camp Arifjan, both in Kuwait.

Staff Sgt. Randy Tone, who will be on his third deployment, said the virtual-reality training "helps my crew to know what to expect and how it is supposed to react in situations like when it is attacked by an IED (improvised explosive device).

"It's a wake-up call for them," added the 1988 Farrington High School graduate, who has been in the Guard for 20 years.

As a vehicle commander, Tone sits in the right front seat and is in constant communication by radio with the other vehicles in the convoy.

During yesterday's training session, which simulated an evening convoy run, his cab was illuminated in green, replicating the picture painted by night-vision goggles.

Sgt. Anson Locquiao, a 31-year-old chef from Kauai, said his experience in Balad and his training have prepared him.

"I've seen it," said Locquiao, a 1995 Waimea High School graduate, referring to the threat created by homemade bombs. "We've trained for it."

Nearly 85 percent of the brigade soldiers have experienced at least one combat tour.

For this deployment the 29th Brigade, augmented by 500 soldiers from the Oklahoma Army Guard's 45th Fires Brigade, has been designated as Task Force Lava Thunder.

A farewell ceremony will be held here tomorrow, attended by several island politicians, including U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie and state Sen. Mike Gabbard.